Is the Handmaid ’s Tale still worth the soreness of staring at it?
Is the Handmaid ’s Tale still worth the soreness of staring at it?

Hulu ’s unique collection The Handmaid ’s Tale is back for season 2, taking a look bloodier and more harrowing than ever. The collection, in line with Margaret Atwood ’s freshly related 1985 novel, is about in a close to-long run dystopian u . s . named Gilead, where in style infertility has modified the political and social landscape. Fertile women are a commodity — dubbed “Handmaids,” and handed out like assets to robust families to be ritualistically raped and used as surrogate mothers. the entire society of Gilead seems to be built round propaganda and social control. Like so much technological know-how fiction, it ’s supposed to discover the possible finish result of provide tendencies, and to function a cautionary tale.

However what does this harrowing, oppressive drama truly convey us? in the display, men are done for possibly imagined crimes, but the show lingers probably the most at the struggling of ladies who’re tortured, mutilated, or murdered for offenses as small as mocking a warden. It ’s a show about systemic, fascistic control, and especially about the control and possession of girls ’s bodies.

The Handmaid ’s Story has been extensively lauded as an efficient drama — it dominated on the 2017 Emmys, with wins for best Drama, Course, Writing, and Lead and Assisting Actress — however as a gaggle of women from The Verge ’s tradition section started discussing the series, it quickly became transparent that a few of us have been outright warding off the show, at the same time as others approached it with dread, morbid fascination, or resignation instead of any kind of pleasure. We decided to sit down down and communicate through how we feel in regards to the show, and why we’re or aren ’t looking at.

Spoilers for the first two episodes of The Handmaid ’s Tale practice.

Tasha Robinson, Film / TELEVISION Editor: Here ’s the place I admit that I ’ve by no means watched an episode of The Handmaid ’s Tale. I ’m a longtime fan of Margaret Atwood, and that i ’ve learn nearly all her novels, together with this one. i discovered the 1990 film stylish, shifting, and engaging. but when this one started, I had a difficult time installing it in amongst the entire other series and movies i was trying to assessment for paintings, and the more I heard approximately it (or edited folks ’s items approximately it), the extra wearying it sounded. We already live in an international the place politicians who’re embarrassingly ignorant about women ’s basic reproductive biology are still trying to legally control it, amongst different issues, by means of criminalizing miscarriage and forwarding fetal personhood rules. In a global so crowded with entertainment choices, i find it laborious to assume looking for a display where the entire aspect seems to be exhaustively operating down the tactics by which an oppressive society may just abuse women. The Place are the remaining of you with the collection?

Laura Hudson, Culture Editor: I ’m extremely drained. I recapped The Handmaid ’s Story at Vulture exhaustively all over its first season, part in fury and part in terror about the election of Donald Trump. There Has Been, at the time, something that felt cathartic approximately eviscerating a version of the longer term that felt extra frighteningly attainable than ever ahead of. It ’s easy to dismiss The Handmaid ’s Story as fiction, whilst in all of probably the most vital techniques it’s anything else but; as Margaret Atwood herself has referred to, there may be “nothing within the ebook that didn ’t occur, someplace.” The horrors of Gilead are the same ones that numerous cultures have inflicted on women, to various levels, for most of human history. the speculation that now we have placed that each one behind us now’s a lie, and a convenient one to parrot as robust political forces in our us of a are laborious at paintings in systematically stripping girls in their proper to equal pay, physically autonomy, and anything they are able to grab from us while the getting is good.

When the e-book was once revealed in 1986, a female critic on the The Big Apple Instances dismissed it, saying, “No Doubt the basic element of a cautionary story is reputation. Shocked recognition, even, enough to manage a surprise. we are warned, by means of seeing our present selves in a distorting replicate, of what we could also be turning into if current trends are allowed to proceed … it’s an effect, for me, virtually strikingly lacking from Margaret Atwood ’s very readable book The Handmaid ’s Story, presented by the publisher as a ‘forecast ’ of what we could have in store for us in the relatively near long run.”

In 2018, its portents are so terrifyingly acquainted that they have got become excruciating to look at.

To which I say: ahahaha, haha ahahaha. Good to grasp that greater than 30 years in the past, probably the most privileged women in The Us thought to be The Handmaid ’s Tale so unbelievable as to be worthy of scorn. How safe they ought to have felt, all those Serena Joys, in their personal power. However in 2018, its portents are so terrifyingly acquainted that they’ve transform excruciating to observe. we live in a time whilst its most brutal punishments of women — say, the execution by hanging of girls who workout their reproductive rights — are openly endorsed through a pundit hired through The Atlantic, a person whose firing was once openly mourned by means of conservatives who said that he was “an eloquent, persuasive conservative of awesome range and intensity out of what modern elites call to mind as their ‘mainstream. ’” Most Commonly, I ’m simply seeking to stay alive at a time when I ’ve never felt much less like a someone in the eyes of the society around me. How about y ’all?

Adi Robertson, Senior Reporter: I wrote concerning the Handmaid ’s Story ultimate 12 months, and if nothing else, it encourages a wholesome paranoia about spiritual fundamentalist politics. Sure, Trump ’s a misogynist, but he ’s additionally nakedly amoral, which in sure ways is less horrifying than zealous gender complementarianism. Misogyny doesn ’t simply come from brazenly lady-hating men, and the show ’s excellent at conveying that: its most compelling villains are the roughly anti-feminist women who prop up patriarchal establishments just like the Quiverfull movement and Mars Hill Church. I vividly remember that whilst the ones institutions had tremendous cultural prominence, and even if web-troll political movements are more forthrightly bad, it ’s useful to bear in mind how bad those ideas may well be.

That said, I ’m touchy about feminist media that revels in abuse of girls, so I ’m undecided why The Handmaid ’s Story didn ’t initially turn me off. i feel (and that i could be on my own on this) that Margaret Atwood ’s MaddAddam books are gratuitous feminist torture porn, so perhaps it simply appeared good when put next. But I ’ve watched the primary few episodes of The Handmaid ’s Tale ’s second season, and man, it ’s been tough.

Devon Maloney, Web Tradition Editor: Professionally, over the earlier five years, I ’ve controlled to carve out dystopian fiction as one of my best beats as a author. i believe strongly within the sociopolitical energy of the genre, and that i ’ve argued in its favor on numerous occasions. i have a daily Google alert for “dystopia.” Its presence is in all places in our lives, most manifestly in how we ’ve mockingly controlled to ignore the style ’s many hallmark warnings and actively construct the hellscape such a lot of authors imagined as cautionary metaphors. which is all to say that after upon a time, The Handmaid ’s Story was once extremely my shit. As Soon As upon a time, the promise of a Handmaid ’s Tale TELEVISION variation might have had me chomping on the bit.

However things have shifted beautiful considerably for me, because it has for many folks. After the election, i discovered it very tricky, if no longer unattainable, to continue banging my trusty “dystopian fiction is nice for society” drum. All Of Sudden, taking a look severely at stories that forecast our approaching doom on the hands of era or capitalism or white supremacy became more of an exercise in miserable self-flagellation than of exact highbrow or moral research. i started observing the primary season of The Handmaid ’s Tale as a result of, on the time, i was a freelancer and felt i wanted to keep up on it — in any case, anyone would possibly question me to jot down something about it — but after six or seven episodes, i used to be burned out and gave up.

After six or seven episodes, i was burned out and gave up.

The series is fantastically shot, acted, and directed (by way of girls, which I delight in, despite the fact that the showrunner is a white guy), however the precise tale leaves a lot emotional reduction to be desired. in this political local weather, it felt like i was watching it in 4D, where the fourth size is “guerilla advertising”: New anti-abortion law is offered by the real-are living executive! Actual-are living misogynists on social media let you know they ’re going to rape you to dying!

Megan Farokhmanesh, Reporter: Well, I ’ve never felt extra like a masochist than after reading some of these thoughtful issues, because I just gobbled a rewatch of the first season. I empathize so much with what ’s been said here; the sheer exhaustion of my first time with it lingers in my memory. Seeing portions of myself — an revel in I so infrequently get in media, as a queer lady of colour — in characters like Moira or Emily is a painful revel in once they live in an international built to grind them down, if no longer outright wreck them. Coupled with the true-life happenings at that time, it felt like an exercise in emotional self-hurt to track the display so carefully. Returning to it now, however, i discovered myself anticipating or even savoring the wins of the primary season in some way I couldn ’t earlier than. The mysteries have been long past. I knew exactly the place the pain points had been and the way to stable myself.

Here ’s every other a laugh element: I watched the display with a close male family member this time round. It used to be his first time. The experience turned into, for me, just as much about staring at him take in the display because it was for me to revisit it. The Handmaid ’s Tale is set ladies ’s suffering. It ’s a story about dystopia and extreme outcome, nevertheless it ’s now not thus far flung that we don ’t all see a little bit bit of ourselves or our actual global in it. The show doesn ’t pull away from this; every now and then it even seems to experience it. Gazing my male companion take this all in with each and every draw back, recoil, or pillow hug felt surprisingly satisfying, as a lot as if I ’d grabbed him by way of the shoulders and violently shaken him at the same time as shouting approximately misogyny. It ’s all so bad that no person can deny how horrific it’s.

Laura Hudson: This season additionally offers us our first look at the dreaded Colonies, the place unhealthy girls visit shovel dust until they die. Does any person know what they ’re in fact doing? As A Result Of talking of misery porn and watching women endure pointlessly, from what I ’ve noticed so far, all they do is slowly absorb lethal radiation at the same time as shoving soil into bags and getting surprised with livestock prods. is this the dystopian version of Holes, starring Shia LaBeouf?

is this the dystopian version of Holes, starring Shia LaBeouf?

Adi Robertson: I figured it used to be death camp make-work, which I ’ll admit can be elaborately needless. Talking of pointless struggling, are there male Colony camps? to not get all “patriarchy hurts men too,” however one recent micro-Gilead was Warren Jeffs ’ Mormon offshoot community, and it was notoriously ruthless towards less tough men. It ’s appropriate that The Handmaid ’s Story specializes in girls, however i ponder if the virtually exclusive focus on extreme female suffering is one explanation why it ’s so hard.

Devon Maloney: If I bear in mind appropriately, such a lot dangerous men are simply completed in Gilead, however for my part, the one kind of male struggling that would exhaust me less would take the form of victories for the women over their oppressors — if it used to be simply innovative, rebellious men additionally being labored and radiation-poisoned to dying, that would just make it all worse for me.

In a lot of ways, stories like this aren ’t intended to be lived in longer term: the whole idea is predicated at the high concentration of horror in a discrete, restricted package, and it handiest works “successfully” if audiences get to flee later on, to think about and, expectantly, learn from it. (that is why Black Reflect works so smartly.) To me, the display ’s renewal — its Recreation of Thrones-ification, in the event you will, during which it surpasses its source subject matter — suggests that it has no goal rather than prolonging and deepening misery for the ones already below Gilead ’s boot (because it ’s unquestionably now not converting anybody ’s mind about the rest). And, like Laura, I Am tired — too drained for that.

Despite The Fact That Megan does elevate an excellent aspect — gazing males IRL experience the display might be moderately cathartic? on the very least, it feels somewhat like a sentinel in the zeitgeist, a reminder for folks who won’t otherwise understand or care that ladies (or basically anyone who isn ’t a person) are nonetheless very much being crushed in the crucible that may be our generation.

Adi Robertson: Atwood ’s e book does offer a sort of break out in its metafictional epilogue, which is about after the autumn of Gilead. I ’d have an interest to look the showrunners attempt to work that in come what may, nevertheless it seems unlikely.

Laura Hudson: Additionally, the punishments of ladies really feel very haphazard, which is bizarre in a society that may be so dedicated to ritual and being extraordinarily regimented? Janine loses an eye for speaking back; the new Ofglen will get her tongue minimize out… for a reason why that may be uncertain to me while the remainder of the rebellious Handmaids get treated to a couple execution theater and have their palms burned on a stove; Emily (until now Ofglen) gets genitally mutilated for being homosexual even as her girlfriend is hung, and then Emily gets despatched to the Colonies in preference to done despite the fact that she literally murdered a man by means of driving over his head.

it sort of feels just like the display is simply choosing random, horrible things to happen to women for surprise impact rather than demonstrating a regimented and horrifying gadget of punishment. that’s what i suspect is going on, and in conjunction with the opening-digging that is my downside with the early episodes of Handmaid ’s Story. Why am I observing this? I don ’t need to see girls brutalized to know that Gilead is dangerous, or that misogyny is bad; imagine me, I got it. for those who ’re going to move past the ebook and create new stories you better have one thing to mention past girls working on a treadmill of nails, and i ’m now not seeing it up to now.

I don ’t want to look women brutalized to grasp that Gilead is unhealthy, or that misogyny is bad; believe me, I got it.

Megan Farokhmanesh: I Suppose my question then is: is there any payoff that might make all of it worth it? The Handmaid ’s Story, as a book, as a contained unmarried season experience, uses the ones exhausting moments to demonstrate what Devon mentioned above. It ’s a movement that, in the long run, serves as a historical past lesson, a teaching moment on mistakes to not be repeated. But with season 1 depending so heavily on the guide ’s material, we ’re heading into uncharted territory with season 2. The show ’s creators have carte blanche to play within the nightmare international Atwood created. How do they fit the tempo and depth they ’ve set? How do they steadiness meaningful stakes with praise whilst so much has already been lost?

Adi Robertson: I like the 2d season easiest while it zooms out to the deceptively normal-seeming parts of Gilead, like the decrease-elegance “Econo Folks” who see Handmaids as bizarre and unique. It simply can ’t maintain the guide ’s disjointed nightmarishness beyond June ’s original tale, and the best dystopias aren ’t all about how the whole lot is completely bad all of the time, however about why large numbers of individuals in finding that awfulness applicable — and implicitly why you, the viewer, may also be one among them.

Devon Maloney: What Adi says, i feel, gets to the heart of the problem i’ve with the collection as an entire: probably the most efficient horror ceaselessly lies in all the grey areas, as a result of that ’s how we as a society finally end up perpetrating atrocities — day by day, news story by way of information story, one not-that-dangerous development at a time. If the “in-team” part of a dystopia doesn ’t seem no less than relatively horny to you — even Fahrenheit 451 featured a world that actively was working to end inequality, simply went approximately it in the entire flawed tactics — it ’s not really going to be that tough a narrative.

Laura Hudson: Given how arduous and often painful it is to look at The Handmaid ’s Story, the question is: does the primary couple of episodes provide us enough of a reason why to maintain going? It ’s my process, so i will, but another way I would be sorely tempted to sit down this season out and reserve my psychological instruments for writing in regards to the actual-existence males who want to rape and kill girls — that looks like sufficient.